NAGPUR: Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, cotton scientists from the city-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) and several other stakeholders are expected to sort out the crisis caused by pink bollworm attack on cotton crop last year and formulate a policy to prevent its recurrence at a meeting here on Sunday.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union minister Nitin Gadkari are also likely to attend the conference organized by Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) as Maharashtra has the second largest area under cotton cultivation and a large parts of Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh depend on this cash crop every kharif season .
Last year, there were reports of widespread loss to crop from pink bollworm pest attack. What was more worrying is that over 90% of the seeds sown in around 40 lakh hectares are of genetically modified Bt cotton that is supposed to be resistant to bollworm attack.
Another problem that erupted last year was deaths from fumes inhalation while spraying string toxic pesticides on the crop. This again was blamed on the illegal sale and sowing of ‘BG-III’ or herbicide tolerant GM seeds that found their way surreptitiously into market though not approved by the state or the Union government.
“The problem has assumed serious proportions and it is now a matter of survival for cotton growers. While it has now been established that the Bt cotton seeds no longer offer protection from pest attack, the government has failed to provide alternative variety of seeds that farmers can prefer to sow. Research for a straight variety resistant to bollworm pest has failed in last four years,” said Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the task force on farm distress.
Tiwari will be present at the meeting and said he would raise the need for re-framing of national policy on cotton seeds. Cotton is the first crop where genetically engineered seeds were allowed in the country. The Rs 450crore seeds market in 2002 has today increased ten folds crossing Rs4,000 crore and a foreign company is reaping huge benefits.
“With no desi seed available in required quantities dependence on Bt will continue. In that case all will boil down to pest management regime and how the government is able to enforce it by use of approved pesticides,” Tiwari added.
The state agriculture minister will also hold a kharif plan meeting for the district. Minister of state Sadanand Khot and guardian minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule will also be present.